There was a time, not too long ago, where it felt as if this golf super season would go on forever. Six majors and 50 events can feel like an eternity, after all. But with just one of those majors left and the FedEx Cup Playoffs around the corner, the end has come into focus. There is still plenty for which to play. An Open Championship winner has not been decided in nearly two years, and there are some big names flirting with not making the playoffs. And while the John Deere Classic is certainly not the biggest event left in the queue, it's a great jumping-off point for whatever the rest of this insane 2020-21 season holds.
The John Deere is also traditionally a marker for the middle of the summer. It splits the U.S. Open and the Open Championship, and is a reminder of all that is to come over the next few months. It represents tremendous opportunity for some players who could use it (which we'll discuss below) and is a final gasp for some trying to get into the year's last major.
Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Event: John Deere Classic | Dates: July 8-11
Location: TPC Deere Run -- Silvis, Illinois
Par: 71 | Purse: $6.2 million
Three things to know
1. This year's Spieth: I watched the Chronicles of a Champion Golfer on Jordan Spieth last week (it's excellent) and was reminded of his astounding 2013 win at this tournament. He was 19 years old and had no proper gear to carry on to the Open Championship the following week because he was not qualified for the Open Championship until he won this tournament. There's almost certainly not a Spieth in this field, but there also could be. With one spot available in The Open at Royal St. George's for anyone who finishes in the top five who is not already in the field, there will be plenty to play for on Sunday afternoon, even if somebody is running away with the tournament.
2. Wide-open spaces: Because of where this event falls on the calendar, it gets plenty of first-time PGA Tour champions. Five of the last nine winners here have been first-timers, and without any massive names in the field (Bryson DeChambeau won here three events ago and Spieth has won it twice, although the first time he was one of those first-timers), the tournament is rife for somebody like Cam Davis -- who won his first at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week -- to pick off a victory, secure his card and make an entire season out of one week.
3. Open travel: Speaking of The Open, there has been plenty of talk about the travel restrictions put into place by the R&A for the final major of the year.
"There's definitely some concerns," said Rickie Fowler at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last week. "Guys have been talking to me or have been talking to other guys … there's multiple things that come up as far as if there happens to be a couple people on the plane that test positive when you get there, you know, what happens with that? Obviously we're all going into our own small bubbles, can't be around other players. It seems like us as players, we're jumping through some hurdles and dodging bullets and they're having 32,000 fans a day at the tournament, so I don't know."
What Fowler is referencing is the idea that even if you do not test positive yourself, you could be forced to WD from The Open because of contact tracing. It's what happened to Robert MacIntyre last week at the Irish Open. Somebody on his flight tested positive for COVID-19, and because he was there, he could not play in Ireland. What's fascinating about this is that there will be a charter flight from the John Deere to The Open. Nobody is sure yet what's going to happen in the scenario that somebody on that flight tests positive.
Grading the field
This is not a great field, but it will include Si Woo Kim (who is skipping The Open), Russell Henley, Daniel Berger and Sungjae Im (who is also skipping The Open). Steve Stricker, who has won here three times, is skipping the U.S. Senior Open to come back and play the PGA Tour again. He recently won the U.S. Senior Players Championship, and he also made the cut at the PGA Championship (regular, not senior edition) in May, which his contemporary Phil Mickelson went on to win. Grade: C
2021 John Deere Classic picks
|Winner (14-1): Harman has been incredible in every facet over the last few months. He leads everyone in this field in total strokes gained in that time, and while I would normally write it off a bit because he's been doing a lot of it with his putter, it's impossible to ignore eight top 20s in his last nine events. He's also one of the best players in this field at this course over the last 10 years with at least 1 stroke gained per round in the 24 rounds he's played here.|
|Top 10 (9-1 to win): Berger has been quietly strong as well and has seven top 20s in his last 10 starts. He doesn't play a ton of events, and this will be just his fourth non-major since the Masters, but he's been terrific from tee to green for the last two months (and all year). He has something to play for here that nobody else really does as he's on the fringe of qualifying for the 2021 Ryder Cup.|
|Sleeper (150-1): Landry has the best numbers at this course of anyone in the field not named Zach Johnson or Steve Stricker. It would be a very Andrew Landry thing to do to contend for this tournament, too. Last time he won, he'd missed seven of eight straight cuts before taking the 2020 American Express. This time, he's only missed six of eight.|